Linda Valdez

Valdez: Cartels will love Trump's border plan

Linda ValdezKristin Marquet

As Donald Trump dives into the deep waters of authoritarianism, think what it means for you.

His approach to immigration is an example of ignoring the common good to satisfy a personal agenda — but it’s an example that many people are willing to overlook because they don’t feel personally threatened.

Or because they don’t particularly like immigrants.

Think again. It matters to everybody.

A gatekeeper in your pocket

Think how much the drug cartels would like to have some border agents on the payroll. After all, you don’t need to worry about walls when you’ve got the gatekeeper in your pocket.

The screening process has to be tough because the temptations facing new agents are as big as a drug lord's cash reserve.

But Trump wants massive increases – 10,000 more – in the ranks of Customs and Border Protection, which is already the largest police force in the nation with 44,000 officers. Of those, 21,000 work for Border Patrol.

Hiring in a hurry – which is how this president likes to do things – could lead to lowered standards and less rigorous vetting.

It's a public safety issue that presents a far bigger threat to this country than Central American children seeking refuge in the land of the free.

Cartel members as agents

In an amicus brief to the U.S Supreme Court, former high-level officials at CBP’s Office of Internal Affairs point to the dangers:

“As security along the border has increased, criminal organizations seeking inroads into the United States have attempted to infiltrate the Border Patrol. And pre-hiring screening programs have been inadequate, leading the Border Patrol in some instances to hire actual cartel members as agents.”

Actual cartel members as agents? Hmm. That bit of intel comes from CBP officials who worked during both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.

Now think about how an authoritarian government could use a police force that’s 50,000-plus strong and unfettered by concerns about civil rights.

Those are your civil rights, too

The high-level former immigration insiders also have something to say about this:

“ . . . the Border Patrol has become increasingly militarized since 2001, with some agents comparing their role to that of the U.S. Marine Corps — even though the Border Patrol is . . . a civilian law enforcement agency. Combined with inadequate field training on appropriate uses of force, these factors have led to an environment in which Border Patrol agents have unnecessarily employed lethal force on the U.S.-Mexico border.”

An investigation by The Arizona Republic in 2013 found Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officers killed at least 42 people in an eight-year period. At least 13 of them were American citizens. At the time, no agents were known to have faced consequences.

Supreme Court considers teen killings

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U.S.-Mexico border killing: Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, 16

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Hundreds of people came to attend the Mass held on Oct. 8, 2016, by Bishop José Leopoldo González González during an anniversary vigil for José Antonio Elena Rodríguez, who was shot and killed by the Border Patrol on Internacional Street in Nogales, Sonora, in 2012.  Nick Oza/The Republic.

The call in the amicus brief to hold border officers accountable came as the Supreme Court considers the case of a 15-year-old Mexican who was shot while in Mexico by a Border Patrol agent firing from the U.S. side of the line near El Paso, Texas.

Lawyers for the teen, Sergio Hernandez, say shooting him violated the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable use of deadly force and the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process.

Lawyers for Border Patrol agent Jesus Mesa, who shot the teen in 2010, say the child had no constitutional protections because he was a Mexican in Mexico.

Hernandez is one of six Mexican nationals shot by U.S. officials who were firing into Mexico. Another is 16-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodríguez, who was shot 10 times in the back and head by Border Patrol Agent Lonnie Swartz, who fired through the fence into Nogales, Sonora, in 2012.

Nogales case moves slowly

The Nogales case is the “only cross-border-shooting case that resulted in prosecution,” according to the amicus brief. It took three years to get an indictment and the trial has been delayed at least five times.

Swartz’ trial on second-degree murder charges is currently scheduled for June.

In arguing to the Supreme Court to allow a civil suit by Hernandez’ parents, the former immigration officials say “similar incidents will likely continue to occur if agents cannot be held accountable.”

That’s everybody’s business because in this country, the ends do not justify the means. At least not yet.